KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Like so many of them, the Starbucks on Merchant Drive stays busy. A barista who works there reports she serves hundreds of customers a day.
“Definitely thousands on the weekends, it’s insane,” Maggie Carter said. “We are very, very busy in a high-volume store being right off the interstate as you can tell.”
While Carter fills orders at store No. 9870, she’s also been pushing for months for the coffee shop to unionize.
“Right now, we have partners choosing between going to the doctor and paying their rent and that’s just not really something indicative of a multibillion-dollar corporation and our employment with them,” she said.
Last week, a tally revealed out of the 27 eligible votes to unionize the Starbucks where Carter works, unionization passed with 8 votes for and 7 against. The vote from the assistant store manager was challenged by Starbucks but that ballot will remain sealed.
Documents from the National Labor Relations Board reveal both Starbucks and the employees advocating for unionization in Knoxville agreed not to count the challenged vote.
“I feel incredible,” Carter said. “It’s really liberating to be able to use your voice in this way and to be able to make change happen at this level. It’s just incredible. We’re all very liberated and excited for this process moving forward.”
Now under a union, Carter plans to discuss improving work conditions at the Starbucks on Merchant Drive with corporate and store leadership, including a raise more than the $15 per hour the coffee company has proposed.
“The cost of living and inflation is absolutely destroying our country right now, so we need wages that relate to that,” Carter said. “Last year the CEO took home a $20 million bonus which is something that would take the average barista thousands of years to accrue. So, we’re looking for wages that reflect the income of the business. Wages that would also allow us to use these benefits that Starbucks gives us.”
The Starbucks on Merchant Drive is the ninth in the country to unionize and the first in the Southeast. According to Carter, the store is understaffed and she hopes unionization will spur the hiring of more employees.